Social Network Or Political Battleground?

Posted on May 6, 2013 in Society

By Katherine. Abraham:

Right to an opinion is my privilege, accepting it is your choice!

The Indian political diaspora has always been highlighted by extremist comments in the election season. Till now, it has been the politicians who dug the dirt, bathed in it and played an active round of mud slinging.

how-social-media-leverages-shame-for-better-and-worse-650x0For the past few months, however, the scenario has changed. This political smear campaign which till now was confined to the limits of the political class has slowly crept into social networking sites with sparring internet rivals venting out venomous statements against each other. Gone are the days of civility and cultured debates among the educated class. Today, we have come to a point where the only parameter for a political discussion is who will stoop the lowest to conquer.

I joined Twitter three years ago, to be precise March 2009. The IPL fiasco had fuelled my curiosity and I ended up opening an account. For the first two months I wondered, if there was anything constructive that came off this site. As I continued to tweet I received replies, some gracious tweeters ensured that I felt at home by initiating conversations on diverse topics. It was then that I realised the benefit of an open forum. Anyone could join the conversation and in time I found many like- minded tweeters who shared my interests, line of thought and ideology. I learned a lot from the “au contraire” points of view that I received. Twitter became an intermittent dialogue where one did not expect to be lauded with any material gift or prize but you continued your daily routines along with a refreshing discussion to end the day.

Three years on, I am seriously contemplating if my first opinion of Twitter was right. From an online debating and discussion forum, Twitter is now the National Slander Society of India or the NSS. I am appalled at the level the Twitterati stoops to make a point. Read their profiles and you will notice that these are not mediocre unemployed individuals with nothing better to do. There are doctors, media professionals, young collegians all indulging in what could be termed as nothing less than a social media street fight. Is civility too much to ask for? Political humor and wit has always been welcome but what happens when you are abused, slandered and even consequently insulted for supporting an ideology or a political party?

With the 2014 General elections a few months away, social networking forums have transformed into political battlegrounds of the so – called ‘privileged elitists‘.

I may support a Rahul Gandhi or I may support a Modi or I may not support anybody. Is that a cardinal sin? Am I not entitled to a point of view? Netiquette has always been an issue on social networking sites but degrading yourself and demeaning another is absolutely unacceptable. Can we not agree to disagree and still be friends?

Politics has always been the result of a clash of ideologies, but today it is a clash of supporters. For me, the wrath of the Twitterati is highly disturbing. Perhaps the worst part is to if you try to evade someone who slanders you, they believe they are right and proclaim victory. Little do they understand that silence isn’t acquiescence, instead it is a way of saying I won’t stoop to an irrational and unreasonable line of argument that the opponent has resorted to.

According to a leading English daily, An activist from the All India Progressive Women’s Association has threatened to sue a networking site after she was threatened to be raped by a participant on a live chat. The number of women like her are at the receiving end of this undesirable salvo is incomputable.

A friend of mine was insulted because she viewed her opinions in favour of a certain political party. Is this the current status of Indian society whose hallmark has always been politeness, whose children have been taught to respect their elders, whose elders have been the light-bearers of positivity? Is this the demise of basic courtesy? Is fallacious reasoning peppered with abuse the answer to every debate?

Freedom of speech and expression has been a moot point for debate for a very long time now but when I read vile comments being leveled for the sake of a brownie point I am of the view that these sites need to be moderated given that self- moderation is quite pathetically failing.

For all that counts, I hope that you, as an intelligent and rational individual reader, will take into cognizance what is just written. The essence of a debate lies in the ability of the debater to pursue his point of view without denigrating the opponent. If you must, work on the art of persuasion rather than reducing yourself to a certified social media hoodwink.

Achieving political dexterity at the cost of being morally inept is a price too high to pay!